solo cello and electronics


7 minutes

Commissioned by/Premiere

Commissioned by Ashley Bathgate in collaboration with Metropolis Ensemble for their Resident Artist Series. This commission was made possible by the generous support of Metropolis Ensemble, New Music USA, Rodney McDaniel, Ronald Netter, Carol Whitcomb, Hermine Drezner & Jan Winkler.

January 12, 2016, (le) Poisson Rouge, New York, NY


Purchase from Project Schott New York


Stream on: Spotify | Apple Music


Download electronics. On Being Wrong is an electroacoustic work. In addition to performing, the cellist is asked to cue a series of tracks that blend seamlessly with the live performance. These samples are cued with a foot pedal in a simple application built in Max/MSP. In addition, the application provides reverb that is essential to performance. The performer should adjust each level accordingly, but a very “wet” sound is desired.


My friend and teacher Nils Vigeland used to refer to different composers as practicing different kinds of “technologies”. It was a curious term for describing older music, but it stuck with me; Medieval music had the technology of written notation, Renaissance music had counterpoint, Baroque music had specificity of instruments, and so on.

My approach to Bach’s cello suites for this project was to examine his particular compositional technology. One of the key things he exploits is the cello’s ability to play the same note in many different places on the instrument. Throughout the suites, but particularly in the Prélude from the Fifth (the piece that also proved so alluring to Jacob Cooper), Bach cunningly manipulates this technology, building a slow and evolving melody with repeated D’s on the second and third strings of the cello. In my own work for Ashley Bathgate, I tried to imagine a work that built further still, adding layers and layers of pre-recorded cello. The live interaction between musician and recording studio is my contribution to the technological palette of the original works. Bach’s suites are largely written in keys that are most suited to bringing out the natural resonance of the cello. Similarly, I tried to extend this notion of resonance even further, bathing the cello in a long digital reverb.

The title of my piece, On Being Wrong, is drawn from the book On Being and Being Just by Elaine Scarry. I was particularly struck by the opening section ‘On Being and Being Wrong’, where the author describes the sudden shock of seeing something incredibly familiar, as if for the first time, and how its meaning can suddenly completely change for a viewer. As my piece unfolds, the alternating slow and fast sections are viewed again and again from different angles, until just the right one seems to reveal itself.